‘Day Of The Dead’, Mexico – You Never Want To Miss It!

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Fiestas in Mexico are a resplendent mix of music, colorful costumes, fireworks and culinary treats. The country has a passion for celebrations. No wonder then, that the Mexican calendar is packed with events in honor of ancient customs, traditions, heroes and the country (click here to know more), so much so that no matter which hill town or beach you are visiting in Mexico, you may chance upon a parade, colorful gathering or witness an impressive display of fireworks!

Day Of The Dead or ‘Dia de los Muertos’, as it is known in Spanish, is one of Mexico’s most unique festivals. Celebrated from All Hallows Eve, October 31, and until the 2nd of November, this three-day fiesta is observed in honor and remembrance of the deceased loved ones. Those who died young are remembered on All Saints Day, 1st of November, while adults are remembered on the 2nd of November.

Day Of The Dead may sound like one gloomy or depressing event, however, it’s anything but that! In fact, it is a very pleasant, merry and colorful celebration. Fresh flowers adorn cemeteries all across Mexico, and family members get together for a cheery reunion. Family altars and graves are adorned with flowers, knickknacks, photographs, gifts, candles, plus offerings of sweets. Mexicans also create intricately embellished altars (called ‘ofrendas’) in their homes to welcome the spirits. In rural Mexico, family members leave gifts for the dead at the graveyard and cook up a treat including all of the deceased’s favorite foods.

In the first instance, the Mexican custom of the Day of the Dead may sound pretty much like the U.S. custom of Halloween. For both these events, celebrations start from midnight of October 31 and both are based on the belief that spirits return at that time of the year. But both these customs have distinct origins and their approaches towards death are different. In the typical Halloween festivities, death is something to be feared. In the Day Of The Dead, the spirits are remembered, memorialized and merrily welcomed as family members.

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In Mexico, Day of the Dead is celebrated in many different ways. Details of the celebration vary with region, but the most prominent and common customs related to this event are observed all across the country. These customs include building elaborate altars, holding vigils, visiting the cemeteries and preparing traditional food like ‘pan de muerto’ or ‘bread of the dead’ which can conceal a miniature skeleton.

Festivities seem to be more vibrant in the south of Mexico, especially in the states of Michoacan, Oaxaca and Chiapas. There are a few destinations in Mexico that are famous for their Dia de los Muertos celebrations, for example, Janitzio, an island on Lake Patzcuaro, in the west of Mexico City is noted for its Day Of The Dead festivities.

For all those who are planning a vacation to Mexico, early November is an excellent time to go as they will be able to experience all the festivities related to the Day Of The Dead. Even though families celebrate this holiday rather privately, there are several public displays that you can revel in, and if you act courteously, no one will object to your presence in the cemeteries and other public spaces where Mexicans celebrate and commemorate their departed loved ones. Because of its tremendous significance in the Mexican culture and its unique celebrations in honor of the dead, in 2008, UNESCO recognized Mexico’s Day of The Dead as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008.

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